Pasi Sahlberg–the great scholar and expert on Finnish education– has been named a visiting professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, starting in January 2014. This is great news for Harvard but even greater news for the U.S. because it means more people will have a chance to hear him and learn from him.

I heard Pasi speak at the National Superintendents Roundtable in Washington, D.C., over this past weekend. He was outstanding. If you have a chance to invite him to a state or national conference, do so.

If you want to learn about Finland and how it transformed its educational system over a period of about 30 years, read Pasi’s Finnish Lessons. In his book, Pasi coined the term “Global Educational Reform Movement,” meaning testing, accountability, choice, and competition. He calls it GERM for short. Pasi is a GERM disinfectant.

I was inspired when I met Pasi in 2010 and made plans to visit Finland in the fall of 2011, with him as my guide.

Here is what I learned about Finland:

The goal of education is to make every student a healthy, happy, creative, responsible person. Finnish students take no standardized tests until the end of high school, when they take a test to qualify for higher education. Finnish schools place a high value on play and the arts. Finnish children do not begin school until age 7. Finnish teachers do not assign homework  in the early grades. The teachers and principals do not want children to feel anxious and stressed because of school.

There are no charter schools or voucher schools in Finland. The national goal was to make every school a good school.

Nothing about Finnish education is standardized other than teacher education. There are only eight institutions of higher education that prepare teachers. Admission to them is highly selective. Students apply at the end of high school. Only one in ten is accepted. The teaching profession is highly respected, as much as any other profession. Young people must complete a course of five years of study before they can become teachers. All higher education is tuition-free.

Almost every teacher and principal in Finland belongs to the same union. There is no “Teach for Finland.” Although there is a national curriculum, it is not prescriptive. Teachers have wide latitude over what to teach and how to teach.

Finland has very little poverty, by choice and design. It does not have the extremes of wealth and poverty that are so common in the United States.

When I saw Pasi speak last weekend in Washington, I wrote down a few of his lines (he is a great speaker with a wonderful Powerpoint presentation).

Here are a few of his pithiest:

“Standardization is the enemy of creativity.”

“We do not experiment on our children, as you are experimenting with your Common Core.”

“Accountability is what is left when responsibility is taken away from teachers.”

“Excellence comes with equity, not choice.”

To those who say that Finland’s exceptional performance on international tests is solely the result of its well-prepared teachers, Pasi demurs. He offered a thought experiment. He said, suppose we exchange all the teachers in Finland with all the teachers in Indiana, which is about the same size. He believes the results would not differ. The Finnish teachers would be overwhelmed by the large numbers of children in poverty in Indiana. The Indiana teachers would be overjoyed by the conditions of teaching and learning in Finland.

His conclusion: Aim for equity, and you will get excellence. Prepare teachers to be professionals and trust them to act responsibly as professionals. Recognize that good education for all is not possible in a society where inequality is pervasive and deep.

I cannot do justice to his brilliant presentation. I hope you have a chance to meet this charismatic educator while he is living in Cambridge and traveling America with a message of hope for genuine change from the current status quo of GERM for all.